Middle East Nakba day: Palestinians prepare for more Gaza protests as Israel faces international condemnation over border violence
Gazans, desperate after more than a decade of a crippling Israeli blockade, expected to throw themselves at border fence again despite bloodshed in yesterday’s protests
Bethan McKernan writes in The Independent on Tuesday 15th May
Article reproduced with thanks to The Independant
Palestinian families are burying their dead after Gaza endured its worst day of violence in years: 57 people were shot by Israeli troops and a baby died of tear gas inhalation in protests on the border.
The toll of 58 dead and around 2,700 injured – many shot in the legs – was the steep price paid by those who protested at the security fence which separates the blockaded Palestinian enclave from Israel on Monday.
Fresh protests are expected this afternoon, but it is not clear if they will be of the same size or intensity as yesterday.
Haaretz reports that Hamas, the militant organisation in control of the Gaza Strip, has sent messages to Israeli officials suggesting it may tone down protests planned for Tuesday – the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’, which Palestinians mark as the birth of Israel – in light of yesterday’s bloodshed. Three days of mourning have been declared.
On Monday around 40,000 people were bussed to the border by Hamas – the culmination of weeks of protests ahead of the planned US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as the Nakba.
Israel’s air force dropped leaflets warning people their lives would be in danger if they protested at the border. They were ordered to use live fire on anyone trying to cross into Israel during the protests, which the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said were being used as cover by Hamas for attacks.
The resulting heavy casualties betray both Gaza’s desperation after 11 years of a crippling blockade and the Israel military’s heavy handed tactics, human rights organisations said.
“The policy of Israel authorities to fire irrespective of whether there is an immediate threat to life on Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, caged in for a decade and under occupation for half a century, has resulted in a bloodbath anyone could have foreseen,” director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement.
For the most part the international community has condemned the Israeli policy of firing on unarmed protesters.
South Africa and Turkey have recalled their ambassadors to the country.
The UN Security Council will meet later on Tuesday to discuss the violence, though it is not clear what action might come out of the session.
Officials from US President Donald Trump’s administration, including his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have also drawn criticism for celebrating the opening of the new US embassy in the contested city of Jerusalem while just 60 kilometres (40 miles) away Gazans were dying at the border as they protested the move.
The White House has explicitly blamed Hamas for the violence.
“Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response and as the secretary of state [Mike Pompeo] said, Israel has a right to defend itself,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters on Monday night.
Also on Monday, the US blocked the UN Security Council from adopting a statement calling for an independent probe into Monday’s violence.